Tag Archives: Talent ID

Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Nine Review

5 Little Things To Improve Youth Sports

“When we are studying, coaching or teaching children we have to abandon the assumptions we’ve picked up from studying, coaching and teaching adults.”

Welcome to my Day 9 review and summary of the GO! Chase Excellence in Youth Sports Virtual Think Tank.

My review focuses on one presentation that I have viewed in the last 24 hours.

Each of my reviews follows the format of the Think Tank ‘Workbook & Reflection Journal’ provided alongside each of the sessions:

  • What – What issues does this session address?
  • So What? – Why are these issues important?
  • Now What? – How can I address these issues or implement the ideas in this session?

Today’s Review

Today’s review is from the “Correlate” track of the Think Tank. The “Correlate – Coach the  Person” track is focused on a range of aspects of youth sports from nutrition, to fun maps, to physical literacy and more for the WHOLE athlete.

The presentation I chose today was “5 Little Things To Improve Youth Sports” by Dr. Richard Bailey who is the Writer in Residence at the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education.


This is such a wonderful, wide-ranging session that tackles five key areas in youth sports.


Children are not mini adults and therefore they should be coached differently. Any assumptions that have developed from coaching or teaching adults need to be abandoned. Coaches who have only ever coached adults will need to upskill themselves on how to coach kids as it is an entirely different challenge.


The more the practice activity looks like the sporting activity, the more likely learning will take place. We don’t learn by doing skills that are nothing like the main activity. For example, it is best if a warm up relates to the sport. The common practice of using generic activities in a warm up could result in injury and may just be a waste of time.

If we wish to develop skilful performers in real situations, we need to realise that it is the outcome or successful completion of the movement that is important rather than the athlete achieving a textbook technique. Technique has it’s importance but so does:

  • The timing of the movement
  • The involvement of opponents or teammates
  • Weight, force and flow
  • Space
  • Direction and height
  • To what problem is the technique a solution?

To maximise learning, coaches need to contextualise the practice.


The 10,000 hours rule (i.e. expertise requires 10,000 hours of practice) has become a popular myth. There is no magic figure for practice hours and the the emphasis needs to be shifted from quantity of practice to quality of practice.

When comparing mass practice and distributed (spaced) practice, it appears that mass practice leads to athletes learning quickly but forgetting more easily. There is also the issue of boredom, particularly with kids. Distributed practice appears to lead to slower learning but a longer retention of the learning.


It is wrong to say that praise improves self esteem and wrong to say that criticism damages self esteem. There is a danger of over-praising; kids pick up on it and it can be viewed as lying. Lying damages relationships. Honest and kind criticism is information that will help an athlete improve and is more likely to result in an increased self esteem.


Coaches should base their practices on the best available evidence and information, but 70% of coaches use practices that are not evidenced-based.

Some common ideas and practices that appear to be often ignoring the evidence include:

  • Talent ID – Some are attempting it far too early.
  • Coaching for the right side of the brain.
  • Learning styles (i.e. the idea that there are visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners).

So What?

Coaches are responsible for the development of individuals who are often putting a lot of time and money into their sport and always a lot of faith and trust in their coach. Some athletes are even sacrificing education and careers and putting a lot of stress on their bodies and minds in the pursuit of their sport. Coaches must respect this, the considerable impact they can have on others and their power to spread ideas both good and bad. It is not good enough to simply rely on tradition or what other people do when it comes to the what and how of coaching. Evidence and available information, along with common sense, must be used.

Now What?

Wow. There are some real “gold nuggets” of information here.

This session will without doubt positively inform and influence my coaching practice. Accepting imperfect but effective technique and constantly auditing my activities for context are on my “hit list”. I was aware of value of distributed practice but haven’t implemented it much as I would have liked. This session has inspired me to work harder in this area.

As a coach developer, I see these topics as potentially a series of wonderful professional development workshop subjects.

The “5 little things” presented in this session are actually big things. They are all “must know”, rather than “nice to know”, and are exactly type of subject matter that should be made available to all coaches at the beginning of the coaching pathway.

Favourite Quotes From Presentation

“When we are studying, coaching or teaching children we have to abandon the assumptions we’ve picked up from studying, coaching and teaching adults.”

“Criticism is fundamental to coaching. Criticism is feedback.”

“If people do extraordinary things, give them praise. Then you are being honest. If people make mistakes, give them criticism. The you are being honest.”

Further reading

Twitter: @DrDickB

Youth Sports Think Tank 2019 Day Eight Review

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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